The rich flora creates conditions for diversified fauna. The lushness of the woodlands attracts southern species favouring deciduous environments. Large and fairly homogeneous forests provide peaceful habitats for northern wilderness species. When the built up areas expand, animals needing quieter living conditions have been forced out and replaced by culturally beneficial species.
About half of Finland’s 60 species of mammals live in the Kuopio area. Elk is the most common of the larger animals and they sometimes stray into the built up areas. The number of slim roe deer has increased mainly due to winter feeding by humans. Also the number of bears has grown and lone wolves wander into the area every now and then. In comparison, quiet and inconspicuous lynxes reside in the forest in large numbers. The most common animals seen in gardens and parks are hedgehogs, as well as squirrels, brown hares and rabbits.
Strictly protected flying squirrels have in the past enjoyed the area of Kuopio with forests with an abundance of deciduous trees. As a result of forestry and construction, survival chances are reduced and the number of flying squirrels greatly diminished. Despite the decrease in numbers of flying squirrels they still live in the Kuopio area. Flying squirrels mostly live in the old mixed pine and deciduous forests, where there is nourishment available from deciduous trees and hollow trees provide nesting. Recently, it has been observed that flying squirrels which are also successful in survival in residential areas use small green areas and wooded gardens as part of their living area. The best indication of flying squirrel movement is the bright yellow droppings found in the springtime on the ground near trees.
Plentiful bird species
Kuopio is best known for its bird fauna. Bird watching enthusiasts can observe about 300 species in Northern Savonia, with some of them migrating and some rare random visitors. Regularly nesting in the area are about 190 bird species. The rich bounty of the woodlands attracts birds with a prevalence of those from the south which include the tawny owl, blackcap, icterine warbler, hawfinch and goldfinch.
There are also demanding waterfowl on the bird lakes e.g. the garganey, pochard, northern shoveler and horned grebe, which represent the southern birds. The most noticeable northern species are the common greenshank, wood sandpiper, Siberian jay, Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, brambling, common redpole and great grey shrike. Birds from the east and southeast coming to Kuopio are the rosefinch, nightingale, wood warbler, tree sparrow and Eurasian golden oriole.
In Kuopio, as in other areas, the population of nesting birds is constantly changing. Wilderness birds needing a peaceful nesting environment have been reduced or disappeared because of human developments and forest areas being split up. For example, the peregrine falcon and golden eagle have for decades not found a suitable nesting place throughout North Savonia. Some of the birds have benefited from the construction of settlements, however, by taking advantage of nearby food sources, nesting bird boxes or in buildings. Birds benefitting include, among others, herring gulls, which have spread from the coast to inland fields, landfills and town squares.
If you are interested in birds in Kuopio, many good hiking destinations can be found. There are valuable bird wetlands particularly in Maaninka. Lake Patajärvi , Pata Lahti bay and Lapinjärvi Lake belong to the Nature 2000 network because of their waterfowl. Keskimmäinen bird lake in Riistavesi is also as part of the Natura network. Many rare and endangered birds nest on the bird lakes in North Savonia which are also of importance during migrating periods as resting and feeding places. Rare old forest birds can be found, for example, in the Puijo, Kolmisoppi-Neulamäki and Pisa regions.